The umbrella body of organised labour in Africa, the African Regional Organisation of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Africa) has called for better work conditions for workers as well as rights for them to unionize in Commemoration of this year’s International Workers’ Memorial Day.
The Memorial Day which is celebrated every April 28 is the international day of remembrance and action for workers who have been killed, become disabled, injured or made unwell by their work.
“This year, ITUC-Africa joins the ITUC and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to commemorate the day under the theme ‘Stop the Pandemic at Work’. We take the opportunity of this day to recognize and applaud workers on the frontline of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” a statement by signed by the organization’s General Secretary, Kwasi Adu-Amankwah.
The body paid special tribute to healthcare workers and other frontline workers who continue to sacrifice and risk their lives to save others.
The statement reads further, “We also commend essential services and goods workers who have to continue working during these difficult periods to ensure that life can go on at all. These include workers in electricity and water provision, food producers, traders, sales attendants and cashiers, bank workers, drivers and motor riders, waste pickers, cleaners, security, and media personnel. In these times of real crisis, it is so evident how essential the goods and services these workers provide are. They deserve full recognition and the right to organize and to better conditions of work.
“As we recognize the noble work by these gallant women and men, we pay special tribute to those workers who have lost their lives in the line of duty during these tough times -they are the real heroines and heroes of the working class!”
It urged its affiliates to join in commemorating the day through any of the actions by sending a photo of candlelight in their homes or workplaces in solidarity with frontline workers.
Comrade Akhator Joel Odigie, the Deputy General Secretary of the organization while talking to journalists shortly after attending the Nigeria Labour Congress’ presentation of face mask as a symbolic contribution to the fight against COVID-19 on the sideline of the Presidential Task Force noted that this global health crisis has once again shown that workers do a lot while being exposed to real and constant danger. He paid tribute to Mrs. Ameyo Stella Adadevoh and the other health workers that succumbed to the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) that struck Africa in 2014. We also salute the sacrifices of the millions of countless workers across sectors, fields of profession, and skills that have contributed to ensuring societal wellbeing. He pointed out that one of the lessons of COVID-19 is that workplace and community health and safety should be prioritized and improved. The efforts to improve Occupational, Safety, and Health (OSH) should be done in full collaboration and participation of the workers. The idea still remains to ensure that workers do their jobs with no avoidable accidents.
To this end, therefore, comrade Akhator Joel Odigie strongly urged Nigerian and African governments to continue to strive to ensure that health workers get the needed, necessary, and adequate Personal Protection Equipment.
To achieve improved success at containing the virus, Nigeria must improve testing, tracing of contact persons, and the treatment of infected persons.